An eventful December (a long scribble of stuff)
December 31, 2011, 11:08 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

December came and went in a flash, but it was hardly insignificant nor was it boring. Due to a very hectic schedule, writing regularly on my blog became rather difficult but now I shall take my time to pen my thoughts on the events past.

1. Slutwalk Singapore – 4 Dec

Just weeks before it was about to take place, the organisers of Slutwalk Singapore were contacted by NParks and subsequently the police, requesting for a police permit to be applied. During the correspondence, the organisers were told that a permit was required because this is a global issue, which is also sensitive at the same time. Because it was seen as a global issue, the police expected foreigners to participate in the event. Besides that, one of the fringe events “Slutscreen” (a private film screening) did not manage to happen as planned because they were also requested to send the films to MDA for approval. The organisers complied with the requests and went on to apply for a police permit which was eventually granted after lengthy correspondences back and forth. They even managed to get the permit fee waived, after writing an appeal to Homes Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean.

As an activist myself, who have experienced holding events at Speakers’ Corner for both local and global issues, I do feel that what they went through was highly unnecessary. First of all, NParks usually make the call soon after an application is made and I am privy to the fact that an NParks registration for the event took place more than a month before the organisers were contacted. By then, they have already organised a line-up of several events and have generated a lot of publicity online as well as in the mainstream media. Was it an action made to incite fear in people they perceived as “newbies”? Or do they just want to prevent women from getting together to speak out against being objectified (which happens on a daily basis) and being blamed unreasonably when rape happens because they are guilty of doing so themselves? :p

Secondly, under the terms and conditions on the use of Speakers’ Corner, the organisers and speakers must be Singaporeans with speeches made in the 4 main languages of Singapore or related dialect. It is also stated that the events carried out must not be directly or indirectly related to race or religion. Now it is quite clear that Slutwalk is not talking about race or religion nor was it organised by foreigners. If the police are so worried sick that foreigners may participate in the event, perhaps they should make it their task to blatantly check the IDs of everyone who attend in order to be honest about how serious (and draconian) they are regarding this. The thing that annoys me: foreigners can contribute to Singapore’s GDP, be sold as mail-order brides to lonely old men, praise the country freely, but they can never criticise or participate in human rights events organised by individuals or groups here without having the organisers harassed. Aren’t they part of our community as well, given all the talk about integration and accepting their presence in our midst?

Anyway I am glad that Slutwalk happened despite the misunderstood opinions of many and the police harassment. Kudos to the organisers and volunteers! It addressed (and continually so) a very important issue that many in society thinks is trivial or unimportant. Women’s morality have always been judged based on their chastity, yet they have always been objectified based on what they wear and how they look. Girls have been brought up to fear being violated, to be responsible for preventing violation from happening, yet they have been exposed to the idea that to be cool is to be sexy and to be popular is to be beautiful (all these brainless shit that does not encourage intellectual development) through toys, cartoon characters, movies and magazines… sigh.

Well… I have so many things I want to talk about regarding this issue but I guess I will keep it for another time.

2. Commemorating Human Rights Day – 10 Dec

For the very first time, some individuals and groups who have been working on social issues in Singapore have collaborated  to commemorate Human Rights Day. It was a really wonderful experience and there was a positive atmosphere at the event. Although we may not work on the same issues or use the same methods in our advocacy, we respect and support each others’ existence. This show of solidarity and friendship among civil society here needs to continue through such collaborations, sharing of resources and regular meet – ups in order to strengthen each others’ ability to work towards our goals in promoting our various human rights causes. Hopefully, next year’s event will be a bigger one, with more groups and individuals joining us!🙂

3. Bukit Brown Cemetery

I am not an ancestor worshipper nor am I an idol worshipper. However I do believe that nature, history and heritage as well as the resting place of the dead should be respected, not destroyed. Especially not in the name of urbanisation.

Besides that, Bukit Brown Cemetery is a really beautiful place where one can enjoy a lovely hike on a weekend morning. Walking among so much greenery, hearing the songs of birds, seeing butterflies fluttering around and discovering the existence of plants and insects that we do not usually see in our urban neighbourhoods can be a really enriching experience. Furthermore, many of the tombs at Bukit Brown reflects the culture and to a certain extent, eccentricities of those who now rest below the tombs. There is always this saying that Singapore does not have its own culture, but the truth is, we are continually destroying what is cultural for capitalistic reasons.

Isn’t it sad?

(I will be writing more about Bukit Brown in a separate blog post, with photos taken from my visit)

4. SMRT

It was amusing to hear people being so mad at SMRT for all the train faults and delays lately. Is this a sign that Singaporeans are finally becoming more vocal? Well perhaps so, but most people are only lamenting because it affected them and because they just need a reason to make some noise. While I am not saying that everyone who have expressed their frustrations or opinions are not sincere, most of them are. It is a good thing but yet it makes me kind of sad that people only speak up when things affect them directly, or when it becomes a hot topic to propel popularity or generate more Facebook “likes”. What about other issues related to human rights, transparency of the government and companies linked to them, our nuclear and arms trade with certain countries etc etc?

Right, back to the issue. I think Singapore should stop proclaiming its public transportation service as having the first world standards, because it has proven otherwise, where the last check of the tracks being made 10 years ago (you kidding me??). I also feel that if SMRT had been more efficient with their announcements to commuters, more humble about themselves and more sincere with their apologies instead of the arrogant “wait for our official statement and announcement” sort of attitude, the general public will perhaps be more forgiving towards them.

And I do think that they should think twice before their next fare increment.


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